Program Requirements

Physical therapists are health professionals educated at the doctoral level with expertise in the area of diagnosing and treating patients who have movement disorders. A professional doctoral degree involves extensive study over a wide range of courses integrating basic sciences with skilled professional practice. The practitioner must exhibit strong clinical skills and reasoning based on evidence-based rationale. Graduates will be able to enter practice with skills required to independently examine, evaluate, diagnose, render a prognosis, and assess outcomes for interventions in the management of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities of the cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, and integumentary systems. Graduates will also be able to advocate and negotiate on behalf of high-quality health care, the consumer, and the profession.

The Doctor in Physical Therapy degree represents a partnership between the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This collaborative inter-institutional relationship is designed to maximize educational opportunities, promote the use of shared resources for research and scholarly activities, and enhance creative endeavors for students, program graduates and faculty.

The graduate-level professional curriculum is nine semesters long. Six semesters will emphasize classroom and laboratory learning and take place on the UW-L campus. The final three semesters (36 weeks) will be comprised of internships that take place off-campus and culminate with students returning to campus for a one-week debriefing session where they will present an assigned clinical project. The purpose of the internship is to allow students to mentor under a master clinician to ensure that didactic knowledge translates into skill. Internship sites are selected based upon their learning environment and clinical instructors and are located nationwide. To be licensed to practice as a physical therapist, program graduates must also pass the National Physical Therapy examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.


Entrance into the program is competitive. Each year approximately 46 students are selected for the entry-level track based on academic and personal qualifications considered necessary for a successful and competent entry-level physical therapist. The program has a modified rolling admissions policy and students are accepted until the class is filled. Students are accepted during the months of November and January; therefore, it is to your advantage to apply early.

Entry-level Track

Students seeking admission to the entry-level track PTS program must have:

  • completed all prerequisite coursework at time of entry into the program.
  • submitted scores on the general test portion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE); test taken within the last five years.
  • achieved an undergraduate cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0.
  • completed at least (two) 20-hour clinical experiences under the supervision of a licensed PT.
  • two letters of recommendation.
  • prior acceptance into the Graduate School under a separate admissions process.
  • completed undergraduate bachelor's degree by the time of entry into the program.

Select students may be able to enter the program prior to receiving their undergraduate degree under dual-degree agreements. At UW-L such agreements exist with the departments of physics and biology. At UW-Milwaukee, the "Pathways to PT" agreements formalized with PT programs in Wisconsin for Pre-PT students in the BS Kinesiology program will be evaluated as an equivalent mechanism for early admission.

Prerequisite Requirements

All applicants must successfully complete the following prerequisite courses:

Course Credits
General Biology 4
Human Anatomy and Physiology 8
Chemistry (I and II) 8
Physics (I and II) 8
Statistics 3
Psychology 3
Sociology 3

Degree Completion Requirements

Prior to granting the degree, students will be expected to:

  • maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the professional graduate program.
  • complete all didactic coursework requirements.
  • complete 36 weeks of clinical internships, obtaining entry-level marks on all 24 performance dimensions of the physical therapy clinical performance instrument by their final internship. Obtain entry-level status on the PT-specific core abilities assessment form.
  • return to campus upon completion of the internships and present a capstone project during the professional practice debriefing course. An example of a capstone project might be a document of publishable quality directed at making a contribution to the evidence supporting practice (e.g., a case report, a meta-analysis, a Single-Subject Designed Research Project, an annotated bibliography, or a Review of the Literature).


Summer I (10 weeks) Credits
PTS 411/511 Human Anatomy 6
PTS 412/512 Medical Physiology 4
PTS 421/521 Applied Anatomy Assessment 1
PTS 431/531 Introduction to Physical Therapy Practice 2
  Total Credits 13
Fall I Credits
PTS 413/513 Biomechanics and Kinesiology of Movement 3
PTS 414/514 Motor Control, Motor Learning, And Motor Development 2
PTS 415/515 Functional Neuroanatomy 3
PTS 416/516 Physiological Regulation of Exertion and Disease 2
PTS 422/522 Examination course 5
PTS 423/523 Physical Agents 3
  Total Credits 18
J-Term Credits
PTS 651 Fieldwork: Introduction to Clinical Learning 1
  Total Credits 1
Spring I Credits
PTS 611 Pathophysiology 2
PTS 621 Scientific Principles of Intervention 5
PTS 622 Physical Therapy Management of the Cardiovascular/Pulmonary System 3
PTS 631 Professionalism and the Ethos of Care 3
PTS 541 Foundations of Clinical Research 2
  Total Credits 15
Summer II (8 weeks instruction and 4 weeks fieldwork Credits
PTS 623 Integument System 2
PTS 721 Musculoskeletal Evaluation and Treatment: Spine 3
PTS 442/542 Research and Applied Statistics 3
PTS 443/543 Instrumentation 2
PTS 641 Evidence-based Practice: Levels of Evidence 1
PTS 751 Fieldwork: General Practice 2
  Total Credits 13
Fall II Credits
PTS 711 Pharmacology 2
PTS 712 Clinical Radiography 1
PTS 722 Musculoskeletal Evaluation and Treatment: Lower Extremity 3
PTS 723 Adult Neurorehabilitative Physical Therapy 4
PTS 732 Clinical Teaching and Patient Education 2
PTS 741 Evidence-based Practice: Interventions 1
PTS 742 Research Practicum 1
  Total Credits 14
Spring II Credits
PTS 724 Health and Wellness in Physical Therapy Practice 2
PTS 725 Musculoskeletal Evaluation and Treatment: Upper Extremity 3
PTS 726 Pediatric Neurorehabilitative Physical Therapy 4
PTS 727 Case-based Clinical Decision Making - Interventions 2
PTS 733 Health Care Systems and Administration 3
PTS 742 Research Practicum 1
PTS 743 Evidence-based Practice: Tests and Measures 1
  Total Credits 16
Summer III Credits
PTS 851 Internship: Inpatient-acute/rehab 6
PTS 831 Clinical Decision Making in an Inpatient Acute Care/Rehab Setting 1
  Total Credits 7
Fall III Credits
PTS 852 Internship: Outpatient Orthopedic 6
PTS 832 Clinical Decision Making in an Outpatient Acute Care/Rehab Setting 1
  Total Credits 7
Spring III Credits
PTS 853 Internship: Autonomous Practice 6
PTS 833 Clinical Decision Making in Autonomous Practice 1
PTS 854 Internship Debriefing 1
  Total Credits 8
  Total required credits for program 112